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“ But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets ; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe ; for there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, thraugh the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare the righteousness of God for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, the righteousness of God, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
It may be proper here to remark, that the several parts of this passage are so closely connected, that the whole is pointed as composing but one sentence. Such is the fact not only in the common Bible, but in the translations of Newcome and Macknight. The phrase "the righteousness of God,” in this one sentence, occurs four times The second time it occurs, a clear explanation is given of its meaning, as used by Paul. Now who will venture to assert that, in this very passage, between the explanation and the close of the sentence, Paul twice used the phrase in a sense entirely different from what he had explained to be its meaning ? What author of the present day would be willing that others should impute to him such negligence or inconsistency? And what doctrine cannot be proved by the Bible, if such latitude of interpretation be admissible ?
3. The 25th verse, on which much reliance has been placed for the support of the popular theory, clearly suggests the idea, that by “the righteousness of God” the Apostle meant the righteousness which God requires of men for the remission of sins—To declare his righteousness for
the remission of sins." John the Baptist preached "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” The Apostles preached that men should“ repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.” But what inspired teacher ever preached the personal righteousness of God for the remission of sins, or as the condition of forgiveness ? Those who have believed that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers as the only ground of their pardon and acceptance, have indeed come near to preaching the personal righteousness of. God for the remission of sins. But their authority for so preaching, I have not found in the Bible.
It will here probably be said, that the righteousness which God caused to be declared, was not merely “for the remission of sins,” but “ that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” To this it may be replied, that it was for the purpose of the sinner's pardon and, salvation that God set forth his Son to declare the righteousness which he requires for the remission of sins; and if he has proposed righteous terms of forgiveness, a compliance with those terms, on the part of the sinner, renders it “just” in God to justify or pardon his offences. As impenitency renders it just in God to punish, so repentance renders it just in him to forgive.
4. It appears to me an undeniable fact, that God did , set forth bis Son as a mercy-seat, to declare the righteousness which he requires for the remission of sins. What, I may ask, is the Sermon on the Mount, but a solemn, lucid, and impressive declaration of the righteousness which God requires of men under the light of the gospel ? How careful was Christ in that sermon to correct the false opinions of the pharisaical Jews, and to show his hearers
that except their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they would be excluded from the kingdom of heaven! How careful to have it understood that the commands and prohibitions of the moral law extend to the heart, as well as to external conduct! How clearly, too, did he show what temper of heart we must possess to be “ blessed,”—to be forgiven,to be the children” of our Father who is in heaven! In other discourses he illustrated siinilar truths. Nor did he fail to declare by his own example the righteousness which God requires-by exhibiting in his own conduct the spirit of benevolence, meekness, forbearance, self-denial, and forgiveness, calling on others to learn of him, to take up the cross and follow his steps.
“Whom God hath set forth.” If " set forth " exhibited or announced, how clearly was Christ “set forth” on the day of his baptism, or induction to office, when the spirit of God, in the form of a dove, descended and abode on him, and “lo, a voice came from heaven," proclaiming, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
That Jesus regarded himself as " set forth” in the manner and for the purpose which has been suggested, may appear at least probable from what he said soon after in a synagogue at Nazareth-appropriating to himself the following prediction of Isaiah :-" The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preacł the acceptable year of the Lord.”.
After reading the passage to the people, Jesus said “ This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
At the transfiguration, Christ was again " set forth " by the voice from Heaven :-“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." At this time the following imperative words were subjoined : “HEAR YE HIM." This was done in the presence of three chosen witnesses, who were also Apostles, and who were enabled to confirm their testimony by miracles performed in the name of the Lord Jesus.
I may add, Christ was " set forth ” and “ approved by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by, him," in the most public manner, in the presence of many thou- . sands of witnesses. To these works, Christ repeatedly appealed during his ministry as attestation to the truth that he came in his Father's name ; and that the Father was with him and in him. See John v. 36, x. 25, xiv. 10, 11.
In view of all these facts, who can deny that Jesus was “ set forth to declare” the righteousness which God requires for the remission of sins ? And is not this view of his being “ set forth ” much more probable and more to the honor of God, than the hypothesis that, at the crucifixion, God took an opportunity, unperceived by any human spectator, to inflict on his suffering Son the inost dreadful displays of avenging justice, as a substitute for the punishment due to our sinsul race ?
As Jesus was thus " set forth to declare,” in a more perfect manner than ever it had been done before, the righteousness which God requires for the remission of sins; faith in him as the promised Messiah was certainly of transcendent importance. For without thus believing on him as the Light of the world, men could not feel their
obligations to obey his precepts and confide in his messages of love. But the faith which he required was not a barren assent to the truth, that Jesus is the Messiah; it was such a cordial and practical belief in him as the anointed Son of the living God, as would dispose men to become his disciples indeed, to obey his commands, to take up the cross and follow his example. Hence the
righteousness which is by faith of Christ,” or “faith in Christ,” is that holy obedience to his precepts, which naturally results from love to his character, and a cordial reliance on him as one invested with divine authority to proclairn to men the glad-tidings of salvation, and the righteousness which God requires for the remission of sins. “ Abraham believed in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness,” because it was an obedient faith, which disposed him to do what God required. So faith in Christ is reckoned to Christians for righteousness, when it is a faith which works by love and purifies the heart.
I partially admitted some doubt as to the meaning of the phrase, “ the righteousness of God," as used in verse 5. I did this from deference to the opinions of several respectable writers, who agree, that in this case, the phrase is used in a sense different from its more common meaning in the New Testament. But on further reflection, I see no ground for their hypothesis. For “our unrighteousness may commend the righteousness," which God requires, as well as the righteousness of his own character. The fact, that “ all have sinned," was with Paul a reason for making "no difference" between Jews and Gentiles, as to their need of the gospel method of justification by faith in Christ. On this very ground, "our unrighteousness may commend the righteousness” which God requires, as it shows this righteousness to be essential to our salvation.